Viewers of BBC documentary Parole have expressed pity for a criminal who appeared on last night’s episode – and found himself back inside just four months after being granted release.
The third episode of the groundbreaking show, which features prisoners’ parole hearings, showcased the story of Jon Walker, 45, who was given a life sentence for triple armed robbery in 2001.
Walker, who had taken a cocktail of drugs including ketamine, stole money and phones from three female students at gunpoint.
Since his sentencing, he has served 17 years, and has had six parole hearings, each time denied.
He is currently serving at Swaleside on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent. In last night’s episode, he applied for release.
Jon Walker (pictured) appeared on last night’s episode of Parole. Despite the severity of his crimes, many viewers expressed sympathy for his plight
Speaking at the start of the episode, Walker says: ‘Today I’ve got my parole. I’m ready. I’m ready. I know what I can do. I know what I can achieve. I know what I want to do…I’m just asking for a chance.’
He continued: ‘I deserve a second chance. I’m not a threat to the community.’
The chair of the parole panel was Crown Court Judge Anthony Bate. During a conversation between the four members of the panel ahead of the hearing, they discussed how Walker had a very difficult childhood, and had been considered as posing a very dangerous threat to the community.
During the hearing itself, which lasted for some five hours, Walker answered a series of questions, about his offences, his childhood – during which he suffered violence at the hands of his now-deceased father, and his mental health.
Telling the panel how he had ended up in prison, Walker said: ‘From a young childhood, I was in the care unit. Been in care since I was three months old, in and out of foster care.
‘So I had to learn to rely on my own instincts, whether they was right or wrong. Mostly wrong. As I’ve learned, when I became frightened or hurt or became aggressive. When I felt bullied, I became the bully.
‘If you look at my life story…my mum couldn’t cope. When you grow up in a household that’s full of aggression and drug and alcohol abuse, it becomes the norm. I didn’t know any different.’
Discussing mental health, Walker explained that he has two diagnoses – paranoid schizophrenia and Borderline Personality Disorder.
Mugshot: Jon Walker (pictured in his 2001 mugshot) was sentenced to life for his triple armed robbery
While he discussed how he has been learning about strategies that can be helpful when it comes to his mental health, the panel was concerned when they discussed his medication.
They talked about a recent incident in which he had decided to stop taking his prescriptions, and how to avoid similar scenarios happening again.
And while the incident was a cause of concern for the board, overall, they decided to approve Walker’s parole application.
Speaking about the decision, one board member explained: ‘We came to the conclusion that Mr. Walker is not the person he was when he committed the offences.
‘He’s worked very hard…There are risks out there, but we’re releasing him with very, very serious restrictions so that the public is protected.’
Among the conditions of his parole, Walker had to live in a hostel, with mental health services, a strict curfew, and regular drug tests.
Unfortunately after just four months, Walker returned to prison, after he was suspected of dealing drugs.
Because of the adverse experiences Jon had had in childhood, as well as his mental health diagnoses, despite the severity of his crimes, many viewers were deeply sympathetic to his plight, and shared their views on Twitter.
Numerous viewers took to Twitter to express their sympathy for Walker, saying they felt he deserved more support
One said: ‘Jon needs first class mental health support. He won’t get that on the outside world given the government’s neglect of the NHS.’
Another wrote: ‘I really don’t think Jon was adequately supported to re-enter life outside of prison, that he’s been in and out of for his whole life. He needed more than to be put in a hostel straight into an environment where there’s pressure and temptation. Just my opinion.’
Meanwhile a third admitted: ‘I shouldn’t feel sorry for Jon, but I do. The care system, foster carer’s in it for the money. I’m not saying he should go free, but he was given a c*** hand.’
And a fourth agreed, adding: ‘Think Jon deserves another chance with the right support in place for him outside…’
A fifth simply said: ‘Gutted about Jon. Aarrgghh what a shame.’
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